Assault rifle magazines

Tens of thousands of people come on and off Hill Air Force Base every day, most of them civilians.

And hoping to keep the base populace from any potential legal entanglements, officials at Hill are cautioning those people that Utah’s new “constitutional carry” firearm law does not apply to the federal installation.

In February, House Bill 60 was passed by the Utah Legislature and later signed by Gov. Spencer Cox. Sponsored by Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, the bill includes several changes to Utah’s concealed carry firearm law. The most significant change is that, as of May 5, individuals who are 21 and older will be able to lawfully conceal a firearm in a public area without a permit, with some exceptions. Utah becomes the 17th state to adopt such a law.

Under the previous Utah law, which remains in effect until Wednesday, citizens are allowed to “open carry” (meaning the firearm is visible) without a permit, provided that the gun is two mechanical actions from firing. So for a semi-automatic handgun, it was legal to have a fully loaded magazine inserted, but illegal to have a live round in the firing position. For a double-action revolver, a person had to have two empty chambers, keeping the gun two actions from firing. But all that goes away next week, with HB 60 allowing people to conceal their firearms, ready to fire.

But Nate Huven, chief of plans and programs for Hill’s 75th Security Forces Squadron, said the new state law won’t change firearms policy on base.

“This new change of state law will not change anything on base, because Hill Air Force Base is federal property,” Huven said in a base news release. “Subsequently, there will not be a change with our gate-to-domicile concealed carry policy.”

Todd Cromar, with Hill’s 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs office, said base residents who wish to concealed carry from their residence directly on and off base will still need to qualify for and be issued a state concealed carry permit.

Base officials say the distinction is important to know for anyone who may be entering the secured installation.

According to Hill’s 2021 Economic Impact Statement, the base employs more than 5,843 active-duty and reserve Air Force personnel, more than 14,000 civilians and another nearly 2,500 government contractors. Hill is Utah’s largest single-site employer, in both total employees and salary paid out. And aside from the people who actually work on base, many others are authorized access, for a plethora of reasons. For example, people with no ties to the base are allowed to golf at the Hubbard Golf Course, after getting special authorization.

Even with HB 60 in place, Utah will continue with its original concealed carry permit program. The permits are still applicable for out-of-state travel with a gun and, for Hill specifically, when base residents transport personal firearms on and off the installation. According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, Utah has reciprocal agreements with 36 other states that recognize the Beehive State’s concealed firearm permit in their jurisdiction.

Utah’s program requires applicants to complete a criminal background check and attend a training course from a certified instructor.